Sunday, August 12, 2007

8 out of 10 working Indians earn less than Rs 20( US $ .49) a day (2004-05) data

Wow ! And we needed 60 years of so called Independence to achieve this !

Download the 450 Page Report Below from the website of the

National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector
(Ministry of Small Scale Industries, Government of India)

Draft Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector - 27th April' 2007(Not to be quoted, for feedback and comments only)

PDF format

Right click and give "Save Link as "

Visit the NCEUS website to download other reports.

has a brief commentary on this Subject

“India Shining,” indeed

Poverty and inequality continue to plague Indian society, even in these days of corporate partying. While India’s fabulously wealthy rulers are busy acquiring luxury cars and private jets, (not to mention the fact that some of this wealth comes dripping with blood) hundreds of millions continue to languish in poverty and misery.

“Oh come on, Mamu, I can hear my niece complain as she reads this. “We all know this, it’s nothing new.” She pouts for a bit, ponders her best line of attack, and settles for this: “Why can’t people talk about something else? Why do you always have to write about poverty?”

Yes, of course we know all this. Yes, of course we’ve seen the stats a thousand times before. And yes, to write about poverty in India is to run the risk of sounding like a broken record. But I do believe that originality in social commentary isn’t as great a virtue as it is made out to be. I think it is just as important to simply keep repeating the obvious over and over again (think Noam Chomsky or Arundhati Roy here), in order to push back against the mind-numbing nature of consumer culture.

I believe that it isn’t so much a matter of saying something original, in this context, as of finding an original pretext to say what you’ve said a hundred times before.

What’s my pretext today? A report in The Hindu refers to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, which has issued a report on “Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in Unorganised Sector.” The text of the draft report can be found here. (There are discrepancies between the figures in the Hindu article and those in the draft report, probably because the former is based on the final report, whereas the draft report was issued in April, and was clearly marked “Not to be quoted, for feedback and comments only.”)

Some of the findings of the report, as outlined by the Hindu article:

  • 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganized sector
  • 316 million workers live on less than Rs. 20, or $ 0.49, a day.
  • 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to this category of people living on less than Rs. 20 a day.
  • 90 per cent of agricultural labor households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding*
  • agriculture is getting feminized with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

Then there was this statement in the article that I couldn’t quite figure out in light of the other statistics: “In 2004-05, a total of 836 million (77 per cent) had an income below Rs. 20 a day.” This seems to contradict the second point above, which puts the figure at 316 million. Are they suggesting that the number has actually fallen by nearly two-thirds?!! It seems unlikely. I’d like to get my hands on the report itself to figure this out.

As of 2002-2003, the unorganized sector’s contribution to overall GDP was a surprisingly (to me) high 56.7 per cent, according to the draft report (p. 24).

Poorly paid, super-exploited workers, in other words, are contributing more than half of the overall growth of the Indian economy in these glorious times.

“India Shining”: Does that phrase make you want to laugh or cry? Let me know.


*On a different note, this statistic really throws into question the characterization of India as “semi-feudal” by Maoists. If 90 percent of agricultural labor is landless, then we are referring here to waged labor, albeit in agriculture. In other words, this is not a “peasantry” ranged against a “feudal” landholding class, but agricultural wage-labor ranged against an agrarian bourgeoisie.

This is obviously a larger debate, and will have to be dealt with separately.

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